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Two stolen antique idols from Tamil Nadu traced to Kansas City

One of the stolen idols, Yoganarasimha, which has been traced to a museum in US

Tamil Nadu Police’s Idol Wing CID wing has cracked a major case by tracing two stolen idols, Yoganarasimha and Ganesha, belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple in Alathur in Tiruvarur district. The statues are kept at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art situated in Kansas City, US.

What makes the case interesting is that these were stolen 50 years ago and their replicas kept as replacement in the temple.

In 2017 Inspector S. Nagarajan from Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment filed a complaint in Vikrapandiyam Police Station about theft of three antique metal idols of Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhudevi belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple but kept in Viswanatha Swamy Temple for safety. He also informed the antique idols had been moved to Thiruvarur Icon Centre (TIC).

The ID Wing traced the three idols to LACMA Museum, Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Nagarajan became suspicious about the authenticity of the other idols at TIC. The six idols — Yoganarasimha, Ganesha, Dancing Krishna, Dancing Sambanthar, Somaskandar and Standing Vishnu – were found to be fake.

With no pictures of the original idols available, made the investigation tough. ID Wing managed to get them from the French Institute of Pondicherry.

Talking to The Hindu, the Director General of Police, Idol Wing CID, K. Jayanth Murali said: “After obtaining the pictures from IFP, we started looking for idols resembling the images with us on the websites of various museums worldwide. During the search, we came across some photo images of the idols resembling Yoganarasimha and Ganesha belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple, displayed in the galleries of the Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas City. Experts also confirmed it.”

As per the police, the six idols were replaced with replicas over a span of 50 years which are now kept in TIC.

Meanwhile, papers have been submitted about the ownership to the Government for sending them to the US for repatriation of the idols to India.